chavel’s review published on Letterboxd:
Perfectionist William Friedkin has said his thinking man’s action film Sorcerer is the only movie he’s made that he wouldn’t re-do a single shot.
This heady, machismo action film (too much set-up, too much brainy plot! was the original complaint) was released on June 24, 1977 while “Star Wars” had been released on May 25 and still packing in repeat business, both from 20th Century Fox. This remake of the just as robust French classic “Wages of Fear” (1953) is known today for the mesmerizing jungle scenery that is without par, and an uncommonly intelligent and anti-formula script for an action film.
The plot: Roy Scheider is one of four men who have to navigate a transport truck over South American mountains while carrying lethal nitroglycerin that if tipped over can blow them all to smithereens.
Friedkin had wanted action star Steve McQueen for it but refused to create a part for McQueen's real-life squeeze Ali McGraw. But I believe McQueen would have made it into a slightly different film; the world can take a bite out of McQueen but he has a way to indomitably soldier on. Scheider gave the character that beaten down look where he can be frayed enough into the cusp of insanity.
Sorcerer has gone from dismissed in its day to legendary gold status, one riding now on an after life because online users are resurrecting its reputation years later, and deservedly. The Achilles heel has always been the slightly esoteric prologue of the four men before they end up in Latin America, as well as the characters so cryptic that it snips away any emotional engagement.
When I watched Sorcerer again, I was at first thrilled by the sensual and tactile nature of it all; it's so removed into Third World disorder that both at once has a natural majestic and formidable quality to it. Still emotionally closed off? I prefer the sparse dialogue so I can guess what everyone is thinking. If you stick around long enough, though, you will find shades of character. I am more than ever vexed by the greed and desperation of these men, the willingness to sell out on each other. And I am still hung up by the crossing over on a rickety, decayed bridge while stormy, but there's a number of other crossroads that are heart-stopping; fatalism is encroached everywhere.
One of Quentin Tarantino's top ten movies of all time. Top One Hundred Movies of All Time, for me.